UPDATES FOR WEEK ENDING SUNDAY 12TH JANUARY 2002:
Robin and Jo Pope runs several very successful safari camps in
The brightness of the green that covers EVERYTHING, in contrast to the browns and grays of only 2 months ago, is quite extraordinary! And vast quantities of water cover the ground - paradise for those waders and water birds! We sat and watched yellowbilled stork fishing for food in the waters left by recent downpours. Little sparkling streams of water trickled over rocks and roadways. Plenty of food and water for all the game - and as a result the animals look so healthy! Bright shiny coats on all the impala and puku. The giraffe look particularly stunning at sunset, semi-camouflaged by all the greenery. We picnicked at Wamilombe with a spectacular view up the waterway towards Chindeni Hills. The air was perfectly clear. Hippo and zebra were in view. The most bizarre sighting were 2 chameleons mating!! They were various shades of bright green, blue and yellow and they were standing halfway up a large tree trunk. I think they are very beautiful creatures but local Zambians think they are evil and bring bad luck to those who see them!
Our last guests at Nkwali for the 2002 season enjoyed excellent gameviewing overall. There was an abundance of leopard and lion sightings for all, including a pride of lion feasting on a zebra kill. Smaller herds of buffalo have been seen which is quite unusual at this time of year. There have been small buffalo herds seen behind Nkwali as well as a family of giraffe (more commonly seen along the drive into camp). Boating can now be offered now that the river is up so high. I've often heard the boat zooming up and down river - Keyala taking the visitors up beyond the Luangwa Bridge at mid afternoon (instead of an afternoon drive) and returning in time for sundowners. At the moment you can boat downriver from camp and right into Wakumba! Quite a different way of seeing this area.
The sun is shining brightly this morning but exactly 2 days ago it became very dark at about 8 AM and then the heavens opened big time!! 78mm of rain was dropped on Nkwali in just over 2 hours!! It was awesome! The rain pounded down making ourselves unable to be heard in an office with a tin roof! Then the lightning and thunder orchestrated directly above - I've not heard such loud claps in my life!! It was all very odd to have an early morning storm in early January - it is usually typical of March! It took about 24 hours for the pools of water around the camp to sink into the soil after this deluge and ever since then it has been sunny, cool and fresh.
Yesterday our last guests were farewelled after a picnic lunch by the pool. And now, as I type, the Nkwali staff are packing up the camp and putting everything into storage until opening again in late March. Camp closure is always conducted at frenetic pace - Shanie, Simon and Keyala have 3 days in which to do a stocktake then pack up and put into storage all the contents of the chalets, the bar, the dining room and most of the kitchen before they have to be in a car and off to Lusaka. Shanie has a plane to catch out of Johannesburg to London shortly after that! Simon will be following a week or so later (no doubt to allow her the chance to catch up with all of her friends and show them her engagement ring!).
So it's the end of another season and time to start planning for the next one! It won't be long before we are welcoming visitors back to our camps. In the meantime Jo has asked me to mention something that she omitted last week. As she was walking out to her aircraft at Mfuwe Airport with guests, John & Jill, last week to see the Valley from the air, they saw the most incredible moth on the tarmac. It was very large and bright bright green with two sets of eyes! It had a width of about 15cm and a tail that was probably just as long. Jo thought it would get run over by a taxiing aircraft so decided to encourage it to fly away. She picked it up and it resembled a bird, fluttering beautifully away. Suddenly a bee-eater came from nowhere, swooped down, caught the moth and flew off, leaving the observers in a state of shock! Jo always thought it best not to tamper with nature and here was her perfect reminder!! Until next week, keep well! Jeffrey
UPDATES FOR WEEK ENDING SUNDAY 5TH JANUARY 2002:
Robin and Jo Pope runs several very successful safari camps in
is a beautiful sunny day and the river is rising! A week ago, whilst
light constantly changing, white clouds racing against the dark dark horizons
as the storms built up and the walls of rain against the escarpment. Amazingly
we stayed dry all day.
On Christmas Eve, Robin decided we needed to get into the festive mood and so set up a pool umbrella in the middle of the sand island opposite camp.
After the morning drive, we all boated over to where Robin was waiting with Pimms! It was hot, very hot - but we sat in a tight circle in the shade and had a few, as they say! Mad Dogs and Englishmen did come to mind.
That afternoon the rain arrived again and so Christmas carols on the bridge were looking very threatened. However, a nearby lodge offered their conference center, overlooking a lagoon. There were over 100 people, 2 local choirs who had been practicing Silent Night, candles and good voices. It was a magic event - with the fireflies being the Christmas lights over the lagoon.
lunch - what a fabulous spread Shanie had prepared. We were just coming to the
end when the heavens opened. And it rained! Shanie entertained us all with a
spectacular slip on the path - ending up covered in mud. By the evening we
were all feeling soggy and so everyone retreated to our house to eat turkey
sandwiches and watch the BBC documentary Blue Planet!
gamedrives somehow have managed to avoid most of the rain. And the guests have
been amazed at how much they have seen. There have been 3 packs of wild dog
around. Spending most of a morning with one of the packs, it was noted that
they seemed to be very intrigued by the bright red shirt of Robert on the back
of the vehicle. The dogs repeatedly came up to the vehicle to check him out!
However, the dogs ended up feeding on a puku!!!
have been five leopard sightings this week. Last night Daudi and Keyala in 2
vehicles were watching a leopard for quite a while.
Valley has thousands of butterflies flitting through the air. Many different
species, with lots of wonderful colors. It is a magical part of the rains. The
land has really turned emerald green after the recent rain and so I wanted to
take a look from the air. My flying career has not gone too well this year. I
have not managed to convert onto my plane (Cessna 210) as I have not had
access to an instructor. And to be honest I find it fast after the smaller
planes that I learnt in. But with Ryan, our pilot, I can fly from the right
seat. I took John and Jill, guests who are staying with us for 10 days, up for
a birds eye view of the valley. John is a PPL (private pilots license) as well
so he was very keen to get up there. We flew up the river past Nsefu, over to
Mupamadzi, checked out the Mutinondo waterfalls cascading down the Muchinga
escarpment, returning via the Frank's lakes, flying low down the Luwi to Tena
Tena and finally buzzing Nkwali at 50 feet! What fun. The valley, as we
suspected, was a carpet of green (but we did need to confirm it!!). We saw a
number of big buffalo herds and Tena Tena had well over 80 elephant in the
UPDATES FOR WEEK ENDING SUNDAY 15TH DECEMBER 2002:
Mombo Camp November Report, December 15 2002
Mombo Camp is located in Botswana's famed Moremi Reserve. Here is the camp's November report:
At Mombo the impala lambs, with big black innocent eyes and long skinny uncontrollable legs, have started to appear. What a marvelous way to end November! As I write this report the sky is overcast and the temperature cool for the first time this month. The expectant cooling showers have not materialized so far in November and it has proved to be hotter than October. But it looks like the rains might finally be on their way. Perhaps the impala could not wait any longer, or perhaps they knew something that we didn't.
Guests have not been disappointed in the much talked-about Mombo wildlife. What with regular sightings of the Woody Boys (male lions) mating with the lionesses of the Piaja Pride, the ever present Mathata and Moporota Prides all displaying their cubs and being well looked after by the dominant Wheatfield foursome (male lions), the first sightings in months of the Old trails pride with 1 new cub, the Steroid Boys (male cheetah) firmly back in town, several resident leopards and last but not least the 10 newly released rhino adding strength to the 5 that were released last year. Welcome to Mombo.
One of the highlights of the month was definitely the release of the 10 new rhino. All went well with the release and they are happily eating away at the lush Delta grass. Though 2 of the rhino have been making return journeys to the bomas that they were kept in for 2 weeks, presumably to look for that tasty lucerne that they were fed. Nick (Rhino Monitoring) on the other hand thinks that they are simply missing his British wit and charming company.
And as we wait for the festive month of December, we leave you with best wishes and another great Mombo game drive tale from the wild side.
Nick, Cheryl and I set out a casual bumble; armed with a cooler box full of fruit juice and 1 beer (to celebrate an evening off) - we were on a health kick. Our objective for the day was to find the leopard that was seen in the morning, and generally have a relaxing time. If we saw any game it would be a bonus. We drove straight to the area where the leopard was last seen. Her kill was still up in the tree. It didn't take us long to find her sheltering under a bush trying to escape the 36°c temperature. She was beautiful and relaxed and we sat with her for 45 minutes enjoying the silence and the heat. This was a good beginning.
Next on the agenda was the mission to locate one of the famous Mombo rhino's. With the number of rhino now increased to 15 animals we were quietly confident that we were up to this task. As we headed toward the open areas I noticed an out of place shape on a termite mound in the middle of a flood plane. We turned off and as we approached we were greeted by the enormous yellow eyes of 2 male lion trying to find shade under a tiny acacia shrub. They were so sleepy that we drove to within 20 meters of them and provoked no more than one partially opened eye. We stayed with these magnificent animals for a few minutes and then left them to pant the afternoon away.
We turned down a new road that none of us had been on before, relishing the idea of driving down an unknown path. As the road burst out of an acacia woodland and into an enormous open area Cheryl and I both shouted "Rhino" at the same time. Lying in a large mud wallow were 2 rhino, a male and a female both busy covering themselves with natural "sunscreen" and having a great time. We sat there watching 14% of the Deltas rhino population and feeling very proud of ourselves. As we had a cool drink to celebrate our awesome afternoon we heard the wind exploding through the trees. There was a storm approaching, and a dark brown cloud started to block out the sun as the world closed in around us. The rhino made a mad dash for the woodland as we were accelerating out of the open. Within 20 minutes the main sandstorm hit us and we had no more than 5 meters of visibility. We couldn't see the road so we stopped and sat out the storm laughing hysterically at the experience as well as the change of color of our faces. Pretty soon we were totally covered in a black dust.
It was getting dark now so we headed for home along the edge of the floodplain. I noticed a rather large furry face out on the flood plane and we realized that we had picked up another 3 male lions. As we approached them Cheryl noticed what seemed to be a cub lying about 100 meters from the lions, as we drove up it suddenly grew spots and we realized that it was a female cheetah lying as flat as possible and trying not to be seen by the lions. We watched her looking at the distant woodland and summing up the distance to see if she would make the trees before the lions would close the gap. As the lions turned away from her she got up and exploded into a sprint, flexing her lithe body and making the 100 meters to the woodland in a few seconds. We watched her disappear into the darkening woodland.
With her safety ensured for another day our spirits soared with the incredible events of the day. We headed for home.
Jao Camp November Report, December 15 2002
Jao Camp is located in Botswana's Okavango Delta. Here is the camp's November report:
November at Jao saw the first real seasonal rains arrive - early in the month with 2 heavy showers then an absence of rain for 3 weeks followed by light showers.
The influence of rainwater can be seen by the movement of wildlife in the area. The red lechwe have started moving north in a reversal of their movement following the arrival of floodwaters in April. The majority of predators are following suit.
Even with this distribution, the game has shown us some spectacular sightings, which have enthralled guests.
The resident Jao lion pride with their 3 cubs have been a stable part of the sightings and the cubs are doing very well and are following their mother as she tries to provide for them. There have been 37 lion sightings throughout the month. Towards the end of the month a new pride has been seen between Jao and Jacana, consisting of 2 sub-adult females with one sub-adult male. It will be very interesting to observe the dynamics of how these two prides interact with each other in the future.
Elephants have been seen to be moving west towards Hunda after the rains. Alpha bull elephants are coming less frequent on Jao Island, only a few young elephants are now seen in and around Jao Camp, as they are too young to follow the breeding herds. The elephant highlight of was the presence a breeding herd seen between Jao and Jacana with two calves born mid November. The mothers were understandably very protective and we were equally careful not to encroach too close.
Hippo sightings have been excellent as the waters recede. The area round the Hippo Pool has been specially rewarding where 16 hippos are regularly seen - with fantastic social interaction between bulls a prospective mates.
The group of 5 old buffalo known as the Dagga Boys are seen regularly around Jao Camp and recently they made their first crossing towards Jacana. This group was initially very nervous but are relaxing more and more so can be viewed now for longer periods of time.
Leopard sightings have been excellent with the Jao female who is incredibly relaxed showing a lot of the guests what it means to be a leopard - the epitome of feline grace. The best sighting this month was her walking on the bridge, marking her territory then jumping onto a termite mound and there posing for us. The highlight and good news is the birth of her two cubs, now about two weeks old with bright blue eyes. The den site is close to Jao, the cubs hidden in a termite mound.
With the advent of summer rains, the arrival of the migrant birds has brought a wide variety of bird calls to the area: Woodland kingfisher have started their displays with a nest in the Sycamore Fig by the main lodge. Wahlbergs eagle have been seen along with Diederick's, Jacobin and other cuckoos. Broadbill rollers have begun their aerial displays in and around the camp, as have lilac breasted rollers which are always a great attraction.
Linyanti Tented Camp November Report, December 15 2002
Linyanti Tented Camp is located in wildlife rich northern Botswana. Here is the camp's November report:
When Ross and Kath arrived in Botswana 6 years ago, it was with the intention of going to the Okavango. Little did they know then that only 6 years later would they finally be making their way there. This last month for them at Linyanti Tented Camp was a very special.
After 3 years "the elephant killers of Moroca lagoon" (the resident lion pride) have had their first cubs! The mother of three blue eyed babies showed them when they were only 3 days old. Two weeks later the dominant female brought 4 x 3week old cubs out to join her. We have watched these cubs growing and surviving. The sightings of wild dogs and leopard have also been incredible, with almost all guests this month seeing all 3 predators in their 3 night stay with us. As you know, the real rain has not come yet, so the elephants have not left the coolness of the Linyanti and we treasured our last few days with them.
The eclipse was a mighty fine mind-blowing life-altering 40 seconds, with not a cloud in the sky, and diamond rings, planets and stars shinning brightly with sunrise colors over the Linyanti floodplains and a herd of 1,000 buffalo moving through blue tinged semi darkness with an eerie stillness surrounding us. Being at Linyanti and being close to the center line, we were not included in the helicopter shuttles of the other camps and went off north with 6 guests and all the staff, and found an awesome place.
The memory of this magical place will be with us forever. The statement that "there is nothing quite like Linyanti Tented Camp" is definitely true. Don't change it!
Cheers Kath and Ross
Duma Tau November Report, December 15 2002
Duma Tau Tented Camp is located in wildlife rich northern Botswana. Here is the camp's November report:
The Green Season is upon us. The staff have been surprised because they were expecting the usual quiet of November, but no such luck - Duma Tau is rocking as usual. The croton and mopane trees are showing off their colors, while the Savuti Channel is struggling to produce new grass. It is still incredibly dusty, although dust storms and impala bracing and silhouetted against the wind create a surreal picture of the harsh side of the terrain up here in the Linyanti. In the last few days of November there were a few days of rain which will hopefully get the shoots through. In the interim, the zebra have disappeared completely, leaving the Linyanti for "greener" pastures. The little rain we have had up here also resulted in the first impala lambs around Duma Tau only really starting to appear in number around 26 November! And now they are everywhere!
The wildlife sightings have been great! The cheetah are back in the channel, a mother and three month old cub delighting all with their antics - the cub is very curious of the Landrovers, showing enormous fascination for the tires and little fear at all. A subadult pair, we suspect the cubs born in the channel last year which then disappeared, have also been sighted hunting along the channel and nabbing the odd impala lamb. Also taking advantage of the smorgasbord of youngsters around are the wild dogs. The Zib pack of 21 trotted from Zibadianja along the channel over a few days, the one day killing two lambs in 20 minutes. They are all looking in prime condition and we sincerely hope no more of the pups fall victim to the Savuti lion pride.
Meanwhile on the other side of Duma Tau, the River Pack of 8 dogs have been busy. Now four adults and four pups, they still specialize in chasing game into the river and launching a splashing attack on the victim in the reeds. With the river as low as it is, this has become easier for them and provided brilliant action for those lucky enough to witness it. On one drive Brandon watched as the pack brought down an impala. The commotion attracted the attention of two male roan antelope, who then chased the dogs off the kill, so that they could have a drink in peace!
The Savuti lion pride have also turned into efficient killing machines, hardly a few days go by without them feeding on one large animal or another. At the moment their preferred meal appears to be buffalo (something that is new on the menu as of this year, last year they hardly killed any!) and elephant. Two of the females managed to drown a big bull buff in Dish Pan, putting on a complete water rodeo display for the guests who watched while all three disappeared below the surface, only to re-appear just the three heads above the water! Eventually they flipped him over by his back legs and held his head under water until he drowned. A fine catch for lone lionesses. It was not long before the rest of the pride bundled out of the bush towards the soft calls for dinner.
The Ambush pride, the new river frontage (between Kings Pool and Duma Tau) territory holders, are reliable and entertaining to watch. The two females and five cubs are always along the river road staring over the river at sunset for gorgeous photographs. The cubs, usually ignored by their mothers, continuously romp and stalk each other which is also fun.
Leopard sighting were incredible in the first half of the month, slowing up a bit towards the end. A young female made the camp her hunting ground, doing her bit to control the baboon populations. Unfortunately she positioned her one victim beneath tent five and refused to move. The guests were treated to her playing in the camp, pawing at the tents and having a mock fight with a monitor lizard before she eventually slunk back into the forest. Some guests were less amused than others (perhaps the ones in tent five).
Sighting of jackal and pups, as well bat eared foxes and pups have been great fun in the channel.
Boat activities continue to provide eles crossing and playing in the water, as there are still hundreds around the camp. Breeding herds can always be seen across the river from camp in large numbers and in the Osprey Lagoon area. With still no real rain on the horizon, the giants have not made their way back into the mopane, extending our elephant season viewing, but leaving the environment a dry place. The lagoons are really shallow, which is a bit of a threat to our boating but we continue to gaze skyward in hope.
Elephant viewing, as mentioned, has been brilliant. Quite a few have died, or fallen victim to predators and mud which has provided excellent interaction with lions, hyena and vultures. Albeit the harsh side of nature, it is part of the cycle of life, along with the summer births and thunder storms, the killing of lambs and the first flush of green in the channel that we are eagerly waiting for. We really do feel that Duma Tau is a wilderness area that shows guests the delicate balance between the beautiful and the brutal.
Duba Plains Tented Camp November Report, December 15 2002
Duba Plains Tented Camp is located in northern Botswana's Okavango Delta. The area is reputed to have the highest density of lion in Africa. Here is the camp's November report:
Yesterday afternoon and evening the skies dumped 65 mm of rain on us - a very welcome relief after a few weeks of unrelenting heat and dust. Termite elates cover the ground and the world is fresh and vibrant, if a bit soggy. We have blue skies again today!
It has been a truly remarkable month (again) at Duba Plains. This place never ceases to amaze. The month has provided guests with a fascinating glimpse of lion behavior. We have had a number of repeat guests over the month, all of who have developed a relationship with the camp and have a genuine interest in the happenings at Duba. The most notable aspect of the November activity has been, what appears to be, a developing battle for supremacy on the plains of Duba.
You will recall that a while ago a magnificent pair of males in their prime moved into the area - one blonde and one dark. After a few brief appearances they seemed to have moved off. The blonde half of this pair has now moved back into the area and is sighted fairly regularly in the Northwest. He is a beautiful light blonde lion in his prime. He is hardly marked and seems to be more preoccupied with his sartorial elegance than actually being a lion. Some guests had a magnificent view of him killing a buffalo cow in a wet marshy area, so he is by no means incapable. He hardly ate it however, as it would have meant him getting his pretty feet wet. It was very comical watching him trying to feed from on top of his buffalo. If he is to remain here he will have to get over his dislike of mud and water. Some guests dubbed him "Hollywood" - and the name seems to be sticking.
Whether he stays remains to be seen however. Two other huge males have also been sighted in the same area. They are also a blonde / dark pair and this caused no end of confusion at first. Where 'Hollywood' is beautiful, these two are impressive. The dark lion is one of the biggest lions any of us have ever seen. They appear to be battle-hardened, experienced lions, well into their prime. A while ago, the game drives where watching 'Hollywood', his golden locks softly waving in the breeze, looking every bit the lord of all he surveyed. He was unfortunately blissfully unaware of the two big males stalking him down-wind. They inched forward, freezing every time he moved, gradually closing the gap. Too late 'Hollywood', eventually aware of the threat, spun around to face them. The ensuing tussle was cursory at best. After a very mild clash, 'Hollywood' lay down submissively and was left alone. The three lay near each other for a while before the two moved off, leaving 'Hollywood' to his own devices. The three have all remained in the area and one wonders whether these three have some prior history.
The two have not been spotted as regularly as 'Hollywood' and we feel that they may be spending time further out to the Northwest with the Skimmer pride females who we have not seen too much this month. This would explain the fact that the Skimmer males seem to have left (or more correctly been "asked" to leave) the pride. The Skimmer males have in turn been seen mating with most of the Tsaro females recently. This pride has been very scattered over the last month. Until recently, we seldom sighted more than a few together at a time. This is most likely due to the disruption caused by the Skimmer males who seem intent on stamping their authority. They have been imposing their will on this pride and have all but ejected the young Tsaro males from their natal pride. They are still hanging on but one feels that they are about to start experiencing the harsh life of the young nomad. One of these young males appears to have a very badly injured hip. Whether he survives or not will remain to be seen. There also appears to be an interesting dynamic developing between the two younger Skimmer males and the Tsaro males.
The Duba Boys seem to be easing themselves into semi-retirement. Only once this month have they moved west of the airstrip. During this brief sortie, they were seen chasing the Skimmer Boys off, killing a badly wounded buffalo bull and disciplining two of the young Tsaro males. They have not met with any of the new males yet though. So while they still clearly hold authority over the Skimmer Boys, one feels that their legacy is gradually drawing to a close. It would be a sad end to a wonderful era.
With this abundant surplus of mature and sub-adult male lions in Duba, the situation is potentially explosive. The struggle for power over the next few months is going to be very very interesting. It will be especially interesting to see whether a new all-encompassing coalition or pride-specific males emerge.
One of the most interesting (and brutal) sightings of the month arose when the Skimmer males killed two buffalo and mortally wounded one. The injured buffalo was left bellowing in the mud while the lions fed on the other two. A situation later arose when a breeding herd of elephant attempted to protect the dying buffalo and pull it out of the mud. They did not succeed and the buffalo died where it lay. The elephant population at Duba appears to be thriving. There are numerous breeding herds around, all of which have very young calves.
UPDATES FOR WEEK ENDING SUNDAY 8TH DECEMBER 2002:
Duba Plains October Report, December 8 2002
October certainly lived up to its reputation of being the hottest month of the year, with temperatures reaching regular highs of 41°C, but averaging out at 36°C. Surprisingly we experienced a few chilly mornings down to 13°C, averaging 20°C. The later part of October saw several overcast and windy days, resulting in very little from a precipitation point of view, but offering some truly wonderful sunsets.
Water levels are definitely a lot lower than at the same time last year. Certain water crossings in December 2001 were still up to the level of the bonnet/hood of the Landrover, but at present are totally dry. As expected, the wildlife is concentrating on the wetter regions, with the buffalo especially grazing along the few remaining channels. Competition for the remaining pools of water has intensified, resulting in several male hippos fighting to the death. Two hippo carcasses were found with wounds indicating they had been killed during a territorial clash. The Tsaro pride and a pack of hyenas gratefully received the carcasses on one occasion and by the Pantry pride on another.
The drier conditions have allowed for regular visits to the eastern part of the concession, resulting in sightings of sable, zebra and giraffe, not to forget one fantastic sighting of five adult wild dogs with their six young pups. The last few years have not been too successful for the dogs, however this year they have succeeded in raising all their pups to the point were they are able to follow the adults on the hunt. This bodes well for the pack, as the pups are through the most dangerous period of their lives. We will be following their development with great interest. Two sightings of a fairly shy cheetah were had, but the best cheetah viewing involved a coalition of two males chasing a herd of tsessebe across a wide-open floodplain. Both the cheetah and tsessebe were at full speed until they reached a wide stretch of shallow water, into which the tsessebe escaped. The cheetahs were not at all keen to enter the water. As conditions continue to get drier, we expect to get more regular sightings of the above-mentioned animals, closer to the camp.
The hyena den is no longer as active as it has been, mainly due to the successful raising of all the pups. The pack seems to have dispersed somewhat, but were seen cooperating against the Tsaro pride at the hippo carcass. No doubt there will be several new additions to the pack in the near future. We look forward to sharing many more wonderful hours at their den.
The lion viewing as a whole was a little down from previous months, averaging 15 lions per day with 70 different pride sights. The lions were seen on all bar one day of the month, with 62 different individuals encountered. This is the most different lions we have recorded in a single month. The reason for the sudden drop in our daily average comes as no surprise. With the arrival of the new males in the Skimmer prides territory and the Skimmer Males moving across to the Tsaro pride, it can only be expect that the prides will be disjointed and moving to infrequently visited areas.
The Tsaro pride was still the mainstay of our lion viewing, however, were only seen as a complete pride on one occasion. Mid way through the month, the Skimmer Males returned after several weeks' absence. This can be attributed to the two new males finally forcing them from their natal pride. All seems well for the Skimmer Males however, as they have not had to search too far and wide to find their own pride. With the Duba Boys coming to the end of their reign, the Skimmer Males have comfortably slipped into the Tsaro Pride. The nine females of the pride have put up no resistance at all. In fact, almost all the females have now mated with their new, young males. The time of plenty for the five Tsaro males is now coming to an end. They are still attempting to remain with some of the Tsaro females, but are simply not able to challenge the two Skimmer Males. A typical sighting of the Tsaro pride now involves 4- 5 females with the Skimmer Males. The remaining females team up with their brothers/sons and move further to the east. The highlight of the month had to be the Tsaro pride hunting the buffalo in front of the camp, and successfully killing a calf in the water. Their success was short lived as the Duba Boys soon arrived to claim the kill. The Tsaro pride put up no resistance and simply moved on towards the buffalo herd. They continued to push the herd for a few hours, until they finally managed to kill another buffalo at the next water crossing point. This time they managed to feed in relative peace and quiet
The Duba Boys were seen on seven days of the month, with all sightings being to the east of their usual haunts. It has to be said the Duba Boys still appear to be in fine physical condition, but simple do not have the confidence to maintain such a large territory any more. Luckily for the Pantry pride, the Duba Boys are remaining within their territory and providing adequate protection to their eight cubs. The cubs are now reaching a year of age and should be safe from any new male, should there be a change in dominance. The Pantry pride continue to hunt a large herd of buffalo and are in perfect condition. They even seem to pushing their territory limits further to the East, no doubt to include a large prey base to support them through the tougher rainy season.
The Skimmer Pride, excluding the two males, was only seen on two occasions this month. On both occasions, there were two of the three adult females missing. We suspect the pride has moved to the north of Paradise in order to resist the arrival of the two new males. No doubt the two missing lionesses are mating with the new males, while the rest of the pride moves around without them. The blonde male of the new coalition has been seen regularly. He seems to have mastered the art of catching adult buffalo all on his own. It appears his darker maned brother is having the "lions" share of the mating, resulting in the blonde male moving about on his own. One morning saw him unsuccessfully chasing the buffalo herd for several hours, only for the Tsaro pride to arrive and show him how buffalo hunting should be carried out, killing an adult bull at the waters edge. It appeared to be their first meeting, with the blonde male roaring across the water. The Tsaro pride seemed unperturbed by the intruder and proceeded to devour the hard earned prize.
The Old Vumbura Pride paid us one solitary visit this month, with one of the two-year-old females missing. Hopefully she was simply resting in one of the near by palm islands. They were all in fine physical form, so must be experiencing successful hunting in the northern reaches of their territory.
All in all, another fantastic months lion viewing. The big question now is: how many of the Tsaro and Skimmer lionesses will conceive after all the mating that has been going on? It would be surprising if they did conceive first time round, but who knows, maybe Duba will receive several Christmas presents in the months to come.